Am I The Bolas? - Ho Ho Hold Up

Mike Carrozza • December 27, 2022

Topdeck the Halls | Illustrated by Kieran Yanner

Hello, and welcome to Am I the Bolas?

This column is for all of you out there who have ever played some Magic and wondered if you were the bad guy. I'm here to take in your story with all of its nuances so I can bring some clarity to all those asking, "Am I the Bolas?" Whether it's because of a mean play or even just getting bored with your playgroup, I'm ready to hear you out and offer advice. All you have to do is email!

I'm Mark Carbonza, and my New Year's Resolution is to floss more!

"Mike, did you have to pick some of the grossest Magic art out there?

This week, a story about patience.

(Email edited for brevity, privacy, clarity, temerity, prosperity, parity, and nobody's reading this part.)


Hello, Mark!

I was at Commander Night at a local game store and I was paired into a three-person pod. I recognized both of my opponents but I didn't know them well, we'd only played once before. The vibe was off from the start. The player to my right (Player A) was watching a football game on his phone and no one was really up for talking, making me feel like no one cared about the social part of this game. Player A was playing Galea, Kindler of Hope and got an early Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist out with Totem Armor and enough Equipment to deal a ton of damage every turn, so I promptly clocked him as the threat as the other player was playing a Party deck that didn't have too much on board yet. 

I was playing Storvald, Frost Giant Jarl. I had a Seasoned Dungeoneer out with Felidar Retreat, so each turn it was getting bigger. I had Duelist's Heritage to give the Dungeoneer double strike and I attacked Player A twice in a row because, well... he's the threat and I didn't have an answer for Ardenn.

But with The Undercity, I goaded Ardenn, and the other player, realizing that he was going to be hit, casts Swords to Plowshares on it. Player A got mad because he intended to move all his pieces onto a Cold-Eyed Selkie and still attack me, but the removal resolved anyway. With Ardenn gone, I was able to deal with his Selkie for another turn with a Vanish into Memory, and he got mad at me, saying, "I just want to gain the life, man." I didn't want him to draw the five cards with his Selkie all suited up. He proceeded to bark at me and point out I missed some upkeep triggers. "That's the second time you've missed your triggers. I'm not letting you go back to do them." Even though the next Undercity room was just "Draw a Card."

I got flustered. He's been on me the whole game and he wasn't even paying attention the whole time. I didn't know how to proceed with my turn. I was getting decision-locked. I swung at Player B with the Dungeoneer because I felt bad for targeting Player A, and I killed him. Player A's turn comes and he's swinging at me with a lethal Cold-Eye Selkie. I attempt to Beast Within, and he casts Heroic Intervention. At this point, I had two Counterspells in hand, and he's tapped out. But I didn't counter and let him win because I didn't want to have him yell at me again. 

I felt awful and conflicted. Should I have countered the spell? I feel bad because I know I didn't do anything wrong and rightfully pinged him as the threat, but he was just overwhelming me. We played two more games (when I really wanted to leave after the first), and each game forward, I played sub-optimally. It was a draining experience, and I don't know if my playing sub-optimally was the right decision. If I have the answers in my hand, shouldn't I play it? Am I the Bolas for sandbagging because I was tired of this player's attitude?

Thank you for hearing out my long story.  



(*While I could've left, it was early in the night and everyone was already in pods. I came by myself and was slotted into random pods.)


Hello, and thank you for writing in for the column. I appreciate everybody who sends their stories or situations from Reddit and such. It's been a heck of a year, and I really can't thank you all enough for contributing to this goofy column. Let's dive in.

Three-player pods are tough. The ideal number of players is four, we know that, but three can still be fine and present different gameplay scenarios that force you to balance offense and defense a lot more than at a table where you can likely afford to lay low a little on some turns.

I'm going to be absolutely blunt. I hate this story. I really, really hate it.

Somebody shows up to my LGS and gets slotted into a pod with random opponents, but then has the gall to pull up a football game that dominates his attention? Yeah, I'm not playing through that nor any other game.

Of course, you can ask them to turn it off, but let's face it, football fans of all variety (meaning including soccer fans) can be way into it and can also get pretty abrasive about that request. I'm going to assume this is America, though, because it's pretty American to have such little respect or regard for others engaging with you in what is meant to be a social game. (Yeah, I'm Canadian. Yeah, I'll trash talk Americans all I want, but you can't tell me that football is a near violent obsession for some folks out there. That said, I love the States - please come see me perform in San Francisco in January.)

Personally, as a person who is fine with conflict, I'd have countered his Heroic Intervention and I'm fine with getting yelled at. Especially in this case: who looks like the bigger loser, here? You, for playing a Counterspell at the right time, or the guy who is yelling at you for playing interaction in a card game while also watching football at a local game store?

This guy sucks. His behavior would have made me think twice about even sitting with him regardless of the circumstances. Put away the phone and engage. I will give him credit for noticing that you missed triggers, though.

That said, why join a second game with him? If you find yourself sandbagging regularly and it's not a good experience for you, that's a sign to get out of that pod.

When is it fine to sandbag? Glad you asked, internet. When teaching a new player or playing against someone of lower skill who is still learning the game and when you're ready to end a game. Those are the scenarios that make sense to me. If you make a deal, that's not sandbagging, but if there is no deal and you find yourself playing sub-optimally for another player for a reason aside from the ones I outlined above, get out of the pod.

You weren't playing for yourself but rather for the fear of being confronted for playing correctly.

That's someone to report or to avoid.

Not the Bolas.

But that guy can suck it.

Happy holidays everybody!

Mike Carrozza is a stand-up comedian from Montreal who’s done a lot of cool things like put out an album called Cherubic and worked with Tig Notaro, Kyle Kinane, and more people to brag about. He’s also been an avid EDH player who loves making silly stuff happen. @mikecarrozza on platforms